Ransom Center to Digitize Papers of LGBTQ Pioneers

Una Vincenzo, Lady Troubridge, and Radclyffe Hall with their dachshunds Fitz-John Wotan and Fitz-John Thorgils of Tredholt at Crufts Dog Show, 1923. Sport & General Press Agency, Ltd ., Gelatin silver print, Radclyffe Hall and Una Vincenzo, Lady Troubridge Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin

British author Radclyffe Hall and her partner, artist Una Vincenzo, Lady Troubridge, are internationally recognized as LGBTQ pioneers.

Now, the University of Texas’ Harry Ransom Center will digitize its large collection of materials belonging to Hall and Troubridge.

Hall’s 1928 novel “The Well of Loneliness,” is widely considered a landmark work in lesbian literature. A semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel about an an upper-class British young woman who wears trousers, cuts her hair short and goes by the name Stephen, “The Well of Loneliness” was immediately banned for obscenity.

Hall (1880 –1943), born Marguerite Radclyffe Hall, proclaimed that she wrote the novel in order to put my pen at the service of some of the most misunderstood people in the world.”

At its most daring, “The Well of Loneliness” describes a night of passion between two women as “that night they were not divided”  and “she kissed her full on the lips, as a lover.”  Hall ends the novel with a plea from Stephen: “Acknowledge us, oh God, before the whole world. Give us also the right to our existence!”

Alongside Hall’s notebooks and drafts for “The Well of Loneliness, the Ransom Center’s holdings include diaries, letters — including around 650 that Hall wrote between 1934 and 1942 to Evguenia Souline, a Russian émigrée with whom she had an extended affair — and evidence gathered by Hall’s American lawyer before her obscenity trial in the U.S .in 1929.

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“The richness and depth of this material goes well beyond the subsequent censorship and cultural controversies sparked by “The Well of Loneliness,” and we’re grateful to the Council on Library and Information Resources for recognizing the significance of this project,” said Ransom Center Director Steve Enniss.

Radclyffe Hall’s scrapbook containing clippings about the suppression and censorship of “The Well of Loneliness,” 1928. Radclyffe Hall and Una Vincenzo, Lady Troubridge Papers, 24.3, Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

The project entails digitizing more than 38,500 images and is estimated to take about 20 months complete. The materials should be accessible online in January 2021. thanks to a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources.

The Ransom Center acquired the Radclyffe Hall and Una Vincenzo, Lady Troubridge papers over decades, from 1960 to 1999. Hall’s papers account for about 60 percent of the material and include handwritten notebooks and typescript drafts for 10 novels and 30 short fiction and prose works, correspondence, business papers, photographs, and scrapbooks.

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